Day three of Wolf Creek Unplugged!
Today was brew day! Typically we have up to two brew days per week, seeing that our fermentor and bright tank space is limited. This week’s single brew was Surfin’ Monks. I was up at 5:45am, inhaled a mug of coffee and headed over to the brewery.
We mashed in with 850lbs of grain.
Delicious malted barley!
It was so windy this morning that we had to wedge the used bags underneath the truck tires, and they still tried to fly away on us.
Breakfast was next. Meghan, the pastry chef at Wolf Creek, has to trim the edges off of her brownies and lemon bars so they are pretty when served, and we get to reap the benefits! I make multiple trips per day to the kitchen to chow down on these. I should probably stop doing that…
We do a step mash where we slowly “step” up the temperature at different intervals then allow it to rest so the starches can convert to sugars.
After the final temperature step is hit, we begin sparging and transferring the beer over to the boil kettle.
Water is sprayed over the grain bed in order to drain all of the sugary wort from the mash tun.
While we wait for the boil kettle to finish filling with said wort, we consume more foods. Chipotle tenders with a side of asparagus! If I add asparagus, then my meal is healthy. That’s just how it works.
We came back from lunch to find a wonderfully drained mash tun and a full kettle, rapidly approaching a rolling boil.
(Relatively) dry grain bed.
At this point, Rick and I open up the mash tun and start scraping out all of the drained mash into big garbage cans so I can hop in there and scrub it out.
It’s around 92 degrees when I get in there, and I’m kneeling on 174 degree steel plates. I lose about ten pounds of sweat every brew day. It’s a very glamorous job as you can see…
After the boil is complete, we whirlpool the wort so all of the hop residue and other junk piles into a cone in the center of the kettle so we can rack off all the good stuff.
Trub! That’s the real name for “hop residue and other junk”. After I drain this, I jump in and scrub it out. Luckily, this one is a nice cool 85 degrees and I’m not kneeling on top of a hot liquor tank, so I don’t have the overwhelming urge to pass out.
Brewing is an incredibly hot job. Seriously, overheating all the time. There’s steam everywhere, all the time! The beer is then run through the heat exchanger to cool it down and oxygenated on the way into the freshly cleaned fermentor. Yeast is pitched, the lid is closed for a few weeks, then suddenly…
It was a lovely 10 hour day and now I’m relaxing with a Stone Ruination IPA and a full mug of Extreme Moose Tracks ice cream. Decompressing commence.
Wolf Creek Unplugged: Transferring. It’s just about as exciting as it sounds, PLUS I get free delicious foods.
Breakfast soup! Every morning, I randomly walk by the kitchen door, hoping they’ve finished making the soup of the day. Around 10am this morning, the Mexican Chicken Soup was done. Yay breakfast!!!
Rick and I had to keg off all of the Surfin’ Monks in order to empty the serving tank so we could transfer Mountain Hawk Red over.
A little pump action… Many a tri-clamp is used. Many a hot water burn is inflicted.
The serving tank was cleaned with caustic, phosphoric, and then a final rinse of 185+ degree water…
Partway through, I was called to the bar to make sure that the Surfin’ Monks we’d just kegged wasn’t “off” in any way. It wasn’t, plus I got a full taster of beer. Bummer. It’s a tough job, but I’VE got to do it.
Since we need twenty minutes for each wash, the bar fridge gets restocked while we wait. That Silk French Vanilla Creamer is mine – for every morning that I need an extra boost, this lovely carton awaits me to greet my taste buds and jolt me back into the present time. Those mornings that I need an extra boost? EVERY MORNING. No exceptions.
More pump action as the acids are flushed. Gas masks (aka brew towels) on!
Lunch? Okey, I guess that’s okey! Tilapia tossed in almond lemon butter, fresh shallots and garlic, with garlic mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus on the side.
About half of what I’d just eaten, packed up and to-go. Every lunch I order holds me over through dinner! Two meals in one – awesome.
We finished transferring beer around 3pm. I headed out into the 90 degree day with raging winds, blasted the air conditioner and then collapsed onto the couch to finish editing pictures, crack open a beer and do a little Cicerone studying. Not the most exciting day in the world, but perfect in preparation for brew day tomorrey!
This week I’ll be recapping every single day as a “Week in the Life of an Assistant Brewer” to give anyone who’s interested a glimpse of what a regular work week looks like for me.
Please keep in mind that my position is as assistant brewer in a brewpub that is preparing to transition from a 10bbl system up to a 30bbl production brewery. My days vary considerably from what a typical assistant brewer’s day looks like.
This morning I rolled out of bed, threw coffee in my to-go mug and got to work around 9:30am (we like to slowly transition from weekend mode to work week mode) to start filling the boil kettle with water and heating it up for keg washing.
My lovely spaceship. I’ll be jumping in there soon enough to scrub off all the hard water scale and hop residue after our next brew day. In case you didn’t know, Valencia water is essentially made of rocks. It’s this hard:
I actually pulled these from the drain a few weeks ago. All that buildup created actual rocks from mineral deposits. Crazy!
While we waited for the water to heat, the other assistant brewer, Rick, and I popped the stem out of one of the kegs to make sure that nothing evil or disgusting was growing inside. I’m thrilled to report that it was absolutely spotless! We had an incredibly impossible time trying to crank the o-ring back in once we replaced the stem, though. The palm of my hand and my fingertips have the bruises to prove it.
I hopped into the kitchen to grab the list of specials – one of my favorite parts of the day! On a typical day, I pace between the brewery and the door to the kitchen, waiting for the “breakfast soup” to be done. Today I actually had time to consume foods for breakfast, so the pacing was kept to a minimum.
Speaking of pacing, I pace in these. As a proud member of the Pink Boots Society, I now wear these with pride. Originally I went out to get the tackiest boots I could find, but now I’m slightly in love with them.
Fire. It’s just what we do. We had to replace some tubing on our keg washer, and of course you can’t do that without a torch… No, I’m certain that this is the legit way.
Rick was stuck with the task of keg washing, as I had an appointment at noon to visit the new brewery location to take some “before” pictures for the new blog I’ll be beginning tonight, documenting the process of opening a production facility. We walked the area, talked about silo and flex auger locations, almost melted in the 95 degree heat, and I snapped away.
We wrapped up the day early around 2pm and I headed home with the air conditioner blasting, my new iPad (on loan from the brewery for social media purposes) buckled securely in the passenger seat. The rest of the day was spent consuming giant mugs full of Moose Tracks ice cream and editing photos for the brewery blog. The only question that remains:
Which wine do I open tonight?
(Wonderful side note: Both of these bottles were given as tips when I worked at Enegren this weekend. No complaints here!)
Having a full time job plus working another job on the weekend makes for… no time for anything else in the world, like blogging. Or sleeping. Forgive me for my absence, but I took pictures to make up for the lack of posting.
On Friday we delivered kegs to the Calabasas Wolf Creek. It was not a very fun trip, driving the gigantic refrigerated truck down the 5 in the pouring rain with lightning flashing overhead, but somehow we survived. No toes were crushed in this delivery. One finger may have been smashed (again)…
On Saturday I worked at brewery number one – Enegren Brewing. It was a beautiful day out to make up for the excessive amounts of downpour we’d had the day before, so I took the brewery bike to pick up cheesesteaks from Carli’s in Moorpark. If you’ve never had a cheesesteak before, you must go eat one right now. This was my first, smothered in cheese and jalapenos, and I want more. I want more now.
We’ll soon be having another Mrs. Enegren on our hands! Congratulations to Brie and Chris!!!
On Sunday we had to take some kegs to Short Order in Los Angeles and decided to sample from the menu – this is the Charlie Brown adult milkshake. Vanilla custard, peanot infused bourbon, peanut butter, chocolate and awesomeness in a mason jar. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the one to order this, so I only got the few sips I stole when the consumer wasn’t watching. Insert evil laugh here.
I was still pretty stuffed from a hearty breakfast at a greasy diner, so I opted for the potato wedges with heavenly sour cream and bacon dipping sauce. Hands down, these are the best fries in the entire universe, especially when combined with the sour cream and bacon.
Back at the brewery, I made a beautiful tan and tanner – Valkyrie California Alt topped with Golden Spur Saison. I think I’ve found my calling – eating cheesesteaks and making pretty beer combos. I’m set for life.
The next day was spent celebrating Commander Matt’s birthday! He works at and owns a brewery which he goes to every single day, so obviously more brewery was necessary. I was more than happy to oblige and force my company upon him.
Hollister Brewing Company was the first stop (after mass amounts of fried fish at Andria’s Seafood in Ventura, of course).
We sampled almost all of their beers and came away with a growler of their Hip Hop Double IPA. My personal favorites were the Riverdance Irish Red – malty with a slightly sweet finish, gentle carbonation and low ABV, and The Pope IPA – not quite sure what it was about this that I fell for, but something about the malty aroma and surprising bitterness at the end made me happy. Very happy.
We also swung by Island Brewing on the way down the coast and the owner, Paul, was kind enough to give Matt, Grayson and me an in depth tour of the place.
I’m incredibly intrigued by their bottling line. Only four fillers, but they manage to bottle 720 bottles every time they bottle. Bottle bottle bottle.
The owner, Paul, suited up in his official “Tour Guide” lab coat. It’s embroidered with the words “Tour Guide”, so it’s official. That and he owns the place. That also makes it official.
I swung by the Ladies at Ladyface meeting (Number 11 already! We’ve almost hit our one year anniversary!) and sampled from the dry hop experiment – Ladyface Blonde with Delta pellet hops thrown on top, put in a French press and, well, pressed. It was “hop night” so there was a handful of single hop beers, homebrewed IPAs and other IPAs that could wreck your palate.
So they say. I’ve had more daunting, but this is a delicious beer!
Now I’m going to be awesome and hit the hay. Three nights of little to no sleep, brewery, brewery tour, brewery work, plus a ten hour brew day today = complete and utter happy exhaustion.
Here’s the list of everyone who won a growler: Brent Whitley, Jacob Smith, Johnson Le, Ryan, Christian K, and Darryl the Beerdolt! All the winners send me an email at Becki (at) Bitesnbrews (dot) com along with a reminder of your preferred growler and I’ll get you the info on when and where to pick it up! Thanks for participating and taking the excessive amount of growlers off my hands 🙂
The next few weeks are going to be a little sporadic and random blog-wise! Moving along with working my new job will keep me nice and busy, but I’ll still be updating when I can!
Today we delivered kegs to the Calabasas Wolf Creek Restaurant, took back empties and cleaned tap lines. Hoisting two 15.5 gallon kegs and navigating through a narrow walk-in fridge takes a lot of effort, even when said kegs are empty. My arms are KILLING me. Did I mention my arms hurt? Cuz they do…
I also got to try the pastry chef’s latest creation for the “Brewer’s Menu” which will be out soon.
That would be caramel and banana pudding, a layer of chopped pretzels, housemade Howlin’ Hef caramel, more pretzels, whipped cream, more caramel pudding, more whipped cream and a drizzle of Howlin’ Hef caramel on top. I’ll gladly be a guinea pig anytime!
Sorry for the short post, but my muscles are screaming at me and I need to go pass out so I can work at the OTHER brewery tomorrey – Enegren Brewing Company! No such thing as too much brewery!
I celebrated the acceptance of my new job with a very special beer – FiftyFifty Eclipse Elijah Craig 12 Imperial Stout. This beer is one of my all-time favorites. This rich, chewy, beer has been aged for six months in a 12 year-old oak bourbon barrel and absorbed an intense bourbon flavor, full of toasty hints of coconut and chocolate.
I have Commander Matt to thank for surprising me with this celebratory bottle after developing a massive crush on it at a tasting months ago at Wades Wines. Honestly, one of my top ten favorite beers ever! I want more…
In preparing to move, the fridge has slowly been cleared out. My latest meals have been random selections of whatever is found hidden within the cabinets and the depths of the fridge. Barbecue chicken nachos, anyone?
Today was the first day of my job! Sorry for the lack of pictures – apparently when you’re hefting 350lbs of grain (out of 750lbs for the entire batch) to mill, mashing in, setting the protein rest temps, sparging, boiling, adding hops, whirlpooling, sanitizing fermentors and transferring beer into said fermentor, there isn’t much time to whip out the camera.
The phone camera will have to suffice. This is the mash during one of the rests.
This is the grain post-sparging. Yeah, that’s about all I got. Except for…
LUNCH! Seared Ahi tuna on top of mixed greens, fresh tomatoes and mushrooms, tossed in a sesame vinaigrette. Oh yes, and a Wolf Pack Pale Ale to pair. Gotta support and rep my new company!
I spent the evening moving some of my stuff into my new place. Now I’m exhausted and need to pass out so I can wake up tomorrey and do more brewery work! I’m so ridiculously happy!
HECTICITY – noun: an accumulation of hectic situations. That has been my life lately. I told you guys that crazy things were happening and now I can officially let you know what those crazy things are.
I interviewed at Wolf Creek a few weeks ago. I interviewed at Stone Brewing last week.
Today, I accepted a job offer to be assistant brewer at Wolf Creek Restaurant and Brewering Company in Valencia!
Wolf Creek will be moving from a 10 bbl system up to 30 bbl, and I’ll be joining them in upping current production as well as moving to the new brewery! On top of that comes everything to do with “playing brewery” – cleaning, mashing, transferring, cell counts, pilot brews, more cleaning, tasting, cleaning, cleaning… Ecstatic doesn’t even begin to explain how happy I am right now. I start on Wednesday with my first brew early in the morning! Since it’s my first day, I’ll attempt to take pictures and document, but I make no promises.
This calls for celebration – the best way I know how.
I’ll be recapping the rest of my San Diego trip tomorrey. For now, time to crack open something fancy!
Don’t forget to enter the growler giveaway! It ends Wednesday and there are still 5 (possibly only4) growlers left to be spoken for!
Yes, I realize that I have, indeed, done a post on this place before. However, that was the restaurant in Calabasas. Today I got an invite to the original Wolf Creek in Santa Clarita – where the brewery is!
The brewery is hidden away in a little strip mall between Starbucks and Rite Aid. You’d never know that beer genius was being conducted in this building.
I got straight to work and grabbed a taster of the Midnight Howl Black IPA before my tour.
As of now, this is my favorite of their beers. Deliciously hoppy with an overtone of bitter coffee rounding out the end.
When sitting at the bar, you gaze through the glass windows and doors directly into the ten barrel brewery, watching the entire process from start to finish (if you are patient enough to sit there for quite a few hours)…
They currently have a copper system, but are looking to upgrade to a larger system, and building, within the next few months to keep up with demand.
The brewery contains the 10 bbl mash tun, lauter tank, a few fermenters and four serving tanks that are full with the high demand brews like Golden Eagle Ale and their Howlin’ Hefeweizen. While it looks like a tight space, Rob, the brewmaster, and his brother have no issue turning out consistent beer with the equipment that has been with them from the beginning of Wolf Creek – 15 years!
Allie and I decided that it was extremely important to taste test all of the beers, and a lot of food, to make sure that our first visit wasn’t a fluke. Quality control.
These. Are. Awesome. “Rings and Thorns” – Ale-battered onions and jalapeno slices, served with a spicy chipotle ketchup and a cooling ranch in case it gets too hot for you. We devoured almost the entire bag.
The Vaquero sammich – sliced steak with grilled asparagus, fried onion strings, cilantro pesto, sliced tomatoes and goat cheese on top of fresh ciabatta. I’ve had this before and needed to do more quality control. It’s still as heavenly as I recall.
Unfortunately we were too stuffed to take advantage of their two-for-one dessert special of the day. I am ashamed of missing out on that.
Thanks to Rob for giving us the tour and letting us try your amazing brews and foods! I’ll be back for that dessert special. And the beer. And the onion rings. And the sammich. And probably to try every other item on the menu…
First things first: I AM NOW OFFICIALLY A CICERONE CERTIFIED BEER SERVER!
I took the test yesterday morning and passed with flying colors! WOOHOO!!!! In order to celebrate, I figured it was time to get something I’ve been drooling over for a long time.
I GOT A DigiSLR!!! A Nikon D3100 to be precise. After lots of research, I was deciding between the D3100 and the D5100. Since I won’t be focusing on video, I figured this one would be perfect. I’m in love!
After snapping dozens of photos around the house, I decided to take Nikita aka Nikki aka my new beloved camera, for a test drive.
Allie and I went to Wolf Creek Restaurant & Brewing Company in Calabasas.
The interior is bright, cheery and earthy. I love the rustic wood and gorgeous streaks of ruby paint racing across the walls.
I love the floor to ceiling windows! If you need natural light to test out your beautiful new camera, this is the perfect place for it!
They immediately brought out piping hot fresh bread with a funky purple dipping sauce. I forwent the sauce and just shoveled hunk after hunk of scorching sourdough into my mouth. Drool.
They brew their own beer on site. Awesome!
And the beer! From the top left: Golden Eagle – their blonde ale, Howlin’ Hef – self explanatory, Wolf Dog – A hoppy amber, Wild Angels – a sweet tripel, Midnite Howl – a mix of IPA and stout, and Oatmeal Stout – their guest brew on tap from Anderson Valley. Wolf Dog was my favorite – a nice, dry, beautifully hopped amber that finishes with a healthy bite of citrus hops.
SO good to have more options in local brews!
Allie and I split the Chicken and Brie sandwich – grilled chicken breast, gooey brie cheese, guacamole, sundried tomatoes and chipotle mayo on ciabatta bread. We subbed the sweet potato fries for the regular chipotle. DROOL AGAIN! Any place that has sweet potato fries is a win on my list.
Dessert was – COMPLIMENTARY! The waitress brought out this amazing sculpture of maple ice cream studded with vanilla beans, sandwiched between sweet waffles, drizzled with a maple cream and fresh berries. They served maple syrup on the side, but it was sweet enough without. This definitely cemented my adoration for Wolf Creek.
And to finish, I had to share (with Allie’s permission of course) – Allie (not a fan of bitter beers) tries her first sip of a black IPA.
I love my cousin. And my new camera that was able to capture, in succession, this amazing piece of history.